Who Gets the Retirement Accounts After Filing for Divorce?


Contrary to popular belief, retirement accounts are not always the property of the person who is listed as the primary account holder after a Pasadena divorce. Retirement accounts that were created or added to during the time a couple was married are considered part of the marital estate. This means that both spouses are entitled to a share of the accounts, even if one spouse did not work outside the home for the duration of the marriage.

Retirement plans that might be subject to division during divorce include:

  • IRAs
  • 401(k)s
  • 403(b)s
  • Pensions
  • Thrift savings plans
  • Profit sharing
  • Stock options
  • Money purchase plans
  • Annuities
  • Military benefits
  • Survivor benefits

A prenuptial agreement can exclude retirement plans from division during a divorce if the terms of the agreement are valid. For example, an agreement that was signed under duress may not hold up in court.

Professional assistance is often required to determine the worth of retirement plans, especially if the plan contains some funds that would not be considered a marital asset. For example, a man who contributed to a retirement account from his employer for 15 years before getting married and then continued to contribute for seven more years would have a significant portion of the account that would not be considered a marital asset.

Appraisers use a variety of factors to determine the worth of a retirement account, including the normal retirement age, cost of living adjustments, vesting status, and cut-off date. Different assumptions for any of these variables can affect the appraisal of the account.

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a special type of court order used to divide retirement benefits after a divorce. A QDRO is important because money awarded to an ex-spouse without a QDRO is treated as a taxable distribution to the holder of the account.

How Can We Help?

Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at info@PasadenaLawOffice.com if you have questions about how retirement accounts are divided during a divorce. Our Pasadena divorce law firm has extensive experience relating to the division of marital assets.